Fry Receives Grant to Study Faith of Little House Author

Trinity’s Dr. John J. Fry, professor of history, department chair, academic dean, and director of foundations program, has been awarded a Hoover Presidential Foundation Travel Grant. With this grant, he plans to spend several days in June at the Hoover Presidential Library-Museum and Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch, Iowa, to research “The Faith of Laura Ingalls Wilder.”

Fry has been studying the life of the author of the Little House books for 20 years, beginning in graduate school. He intends to focus his research on Wilder’s faith, which he described as an unexplored area. According to Fry, while most biographies of Wilder portray her as a devout Christian, some of the representations of church and other Christians in her books are less than positive. “There is an edge in some of her books,” he said. “For example, she writes about one pastor she doesn’t like at all.”

As part of his research, Fry intends to explore whether some of those views in the published books may be at least partly influenced by Wilder’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who served as editor and advisor on the books. “Her daughter was a libertarian and an atheist at the time the Little House books were written. So it could be that edge comes from Rose Wilder Lane,” he said.

Lane was a friend of Hoover’s, and the presidential library houses the “Rose Wilder Lane Collection” of papers. While in Iowa, Fry can view the original manuscripts of the Little House books. He will also have the opportunity to examine Wilder’s correspondences with Lane and others.

Fry is maintaining a blog about his research, with regular updates and insights into his findings.